Nutritional Deficiencies and Imbalances Contribute to Bipolar Disorder

Nutritional Deficiencies and Imbalances Contribute to Bipolar Disorder

Nutritional deficiencies and imbalances are a common feature in bipolar disorder and other “mental” illnesses. Correcting these often produces dramatic improvement. Unfortunately, nutrient status test­ing and intervention are not standard practice in conventional psy­chiatric medicine.

“Nutrient-related disorders are always treatable and deficiencies are usually curable,” states Richard A. Kunin, MD,a practitioner of orthomolecu­lar medicine (the supplemental use of substances that occur naturally in the body, such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and enzymes, to maintain health and treat disease).

Proper Nutrition Required to Help Conquer Bipolar Disorder

No two people with bipolar disorder will have the exact same nutritional condition. Blood chemistry analysis can determine the precise status of your nutrient levels. With this information, therapeutic intervention can then be tailored to your specific nutrient needs. Random supplementation may not address those needs and may even contribute to further skewing of nutrient ratios.

While other factors such as absorption problems or even a genetic dis­order may be involved in nutritional deficiencies and imbalances, poor diet is a primary cause. Any factor that contributes to your vulnerability should be avoided if you suffer from bipolar disorder. Erratic eating hab­its or a nutrient-depleted diet, as in junk-food, fast-food, processed-food diets, definitely fall into the category of contributing to vulnerability. Without the proper nutrients to feed your brain and nervous system, you are more likely to cycle in and out of depression and mania.

Nutrient deficiencies most implicated in bipolar disorder are essen­tial fatty acids, amino acids, the B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc.

Bipolar Disorder: Linked to Deficiency of Essential Fatty Acids (Omega-3)

Research has discovered a link between lipids and mental disorders. Lipids are fats or oils, which are comprised of fatty acids. Examples of saturated fatty acids are animal fats and other fats, such as coconut oil, that are solid at room temperature. Unsaturated fatty acids, which remain liquid at room temperature, are certain plant and fish oils. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are unsatu­rated fats required for many metabolic actions in the body.

There are two main types of EFAs: omega-3 and omega-6. The ratio of omega-3 to omega 6-is skewed in the standard American diet, which is deficient in omega 3s. High consump­tion of hydrogenated oils and beef contributes to the skewed ratio.

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There is a large body of research demonstrating links between essential fatty acids and bipolar disorder, depression, and other mental disorders. Andrew Stoll, MD, a psychopharmacology researcher and an assis­tant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, states: “There is emerging evidence that this progressive omega-3 deficiency is respon­sible, at least in part, for the rise in the incidence of heart disease, asthma, bipolar disorder, major depression, and perhaps autism.”

Deficiency in Amino Acids Can Contribute to Depression

The production of neurotransmitters that regulate mood requires the presence of certain amino acids or precursors. The body does not manu­facture most of the amino acids it requires, so they must be obtained through protein in the diet. A deficient diet can contribute to bipolar disorder and depression, among other conditions.

Amino acid supplementation can be effective in alleviating bipo­lar disorder and serves as a safe and far less expensive alternative to prescription drugs that target the neurotransmitters. Although it may not address the root cause of amino acid deficiency, such as a poor diet, it corrects the problem, unlike antidepressants and other drugs.

Vitamins and Minerals: Lack of B Vitamins & Bipolar Disorder

The whole vitamin B family is essential for mental health. As with amino acids, B vitamins are found in protein foods. Someone with an amino acid deficiency is often deficient in B vitamins as well.

Based on the clinical experience of the practitio­ners in this book, the most common vitamin deficiencies associated with bipolar disorder are vitamin B3 (niacin/niacinamide), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), B12 (cobalamin), and folic acid (a member of the vitamin B family).

Nutritional Deficiencies and Imbalances Contribute to Bipolar DisorderMood-Related Effects of Vitamin Deficiencies

The following are the results of deficiencies in vitamin C and the B complex vitamin family that relate to the symptoms of mood disorder.

Deficient Vitamin

Resulting Behavior

Ascorbic acid (vitamin C)

Depression, hysteria, confusion, las­situde, hypochondriasis


Depression, extreme lassitude, somnolence

Folic acid

Depression, apathy, insomnia, irri­tability, forgetfulness, delirium, dementia, psychosis

Vitamin B1 (thiamin)

Depression, apathy, anxiety, irri­tability, memory loss, personality changes, emotional instability

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)

Depression, insomnia, mental sluggishness

Vitamin B3 (niacin/niacinamide)

Depression, mania, anxiety, apathy, hyperirritability, emotional insta­bility, memory and concentration problems

Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)

Depression, restlessness, irritability, fatigue, quarrelsomeness

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)

Depression, irritability, nervousness, insomnia, poor dream recall

Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)

Depression, mood swings, irritabil­ity, confusion, memory loss, hal­lucinations, delusions, paranoia, psychotic states

Source: Reprinted by permission of Rita Elkins, from her book Depression and Natural Medicine: A Nutritional Approach to Depression and Mood Swings (Pleasant Grove, Utah: Woodland Publishing, 1995)

Foods That Can Help Overcome Nutritional Deficiencies

Poor diet and malabsorption due to gastrointestinal dysfunction are common causes of nutritional deficiencies. The depleted mineral content of the soil in which crops are grown, which translates into food with a lower mineral content, is a fac­tor as well. Finally, many lifestyle practices and attributes of modern life deplete us of vitamins and minerals, regardless of how well we eat: stress, smoking, alcohol, caffeine, pollution, heavy metals such as the mercury in our dental fillings.

Given these factors, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) is likely far below our nutritive needs.

Increasing your intake of foods that contain the nutrients cited above is a good idea if you are deficient. The following are dietary sources of these nutrients:

  • Folic acid: brewer’s yeast, green leafy vegetables, wheat germ, soybeans, legumes, asparagus, broccoli, oranges, sunflower seeds

  • Inositol: citrus, nuts, seeds, legumes

  • Magnesium: parsnips, tofu, buckwheat, beans, leafy green veg­etables, wheat germ, blackstrap molasses, kelp, brewer’s yeast, nuts, seeds, bananas, avocado, dairy, seafood

  • Vitamin B3 : brewer’s yeast, rice bran, peanuts, eggs, milk, fish, legumes, avocado, liver and other organ meats

  • Vitamin B6 : brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, bananas, seeds, nuts, legumes, avocado, leafy green vegetables, potatoes, cauliflower, chicken, whole grains
  • Vitamin B12 : liver, kidneys, eggs, clams, oysters, fish, dairy

  • Zinc: oysters, herring, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, lima beans, legumes, soybeans, wheat germ, brewer’s yeast, dairy.

This excerpt was reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Hampton Roads Publishing.
©2003, 2011 by Stephanie Marohn.

The Natural Medicine Guide to Bipolar Disorder (new revised edition) by Stephanie Marohn.Article Source:

The Natural Medicine Guide to Bipolar Disorder (new revised edition)
by Stephanie Marohn.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.

About the Author

Stephanie Marohn, author of article: About Allergies and Manic Depressive or Bipolar DisorderStephanie Marohn is a medical journalist and non-fiction writer and the author of the Healthy Mind series for Hampton Roads. She runs an animal sanctuary in Sonoma County, CA.  Visit her website at (Photo: Dorothy Walters)


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